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Why coronavirus cases in one Chinese province surged 45% overnight

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Coronavirus cases in the Chinese province at the center of the outbreak surged by 45% to nearly 50,000, after authorities added a new group of patients diagnosed by a different method, raising questions over the true scale of a crisis that appeared in recent days to be coming under control.

The change will raise the number of those infected globally by a third to almost 60,000, dashing hope that the epidemic was showing signs of easing.

In a statement on Thursday morning, the Hubei national health commission said it would now start including cases confirmed by “clinical diagnosis,” which refers to using CT imaging scans to diagnose patients, alongside those confirmed by the previous method of nucleic acid testing kits.

Previously, many patients with pneumonia-like symptoms found via CT scans could not be diagnosed as positive without an additional nucleic acid test.

The abrupt spike reversed the declining growth trend of previous days. U.S. stock futures retreated along with the offshore yuan, and the yen gained.

“The capacity to do the laboratory testing is limited in some way, and we have heard anecdotally that they’ve had to use CT scans to diagnose probable or suspected cases without testing.” said Raina MacIntyre, professor of global biosecurity at the University of New South Wales. “So I think it’s a more complete way of counting the cases.”

The change in method will renew concern over the adequacy and reliability of the tests currently used to identify stricken patients globally, and raise questions over the true scale of the outbreak that has now affected over 40,000 and killed over 1,000 people. The spike in number — and the implication that thousands of cases had previously not been disclosed by Hubei province — will likely intensify public anger against the government’s handling of the crisis.

Faulty Tests

The traditional nucleic acid test identifies the virus in a patient’s body through its specific genetic sequence, but reports of a severe lack of test kits and the unreliability of test results have circulated since the start of the crisis.

In Hubei province’s Wuhan city, where the outbreak originated, people with symptoms like fever and coughing wait for hours in line to get tested. But those who test negative were usually turned away from hospital, although tests were known to throw up false negatives.

“A patient may be found as negative for the first or second test, and then found to be positive the third time,” said Jonathan Yu, a doctor at a university hospital in Wuhan, in an interview last month. “It is like fishing in a pond: You did not catch a fish once, but that does not mean the pond does not have fish.”

The issue has cropped up outside China as well. On Wednesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that test kits shipped to labs across the country and around the world last week have had problems detecting the virus.

Public Anger

In an update to its treatment guidelines on Feb. 5, China’s National Health Commission added the category of “clinically diagnosed cases” in recognition of a shortage of nucleic acid tests. But Hubei province did not include this category in its case count until Thursday, a week later.

A spokesman at the National Health Commission said it’s unknown why Hubei only started reporting the clinically diagnosed case number today, even though doctors should have started diagnosing patients using CT scan images shortly after the update was released on Feb. 5.

In its Thursday statement, Hubei said that the reason for the counting change is to ensure patients receive standard treatment early on. It is unclear if the 13,332 cases it added in the “clinically diagnosed” category were just from a single day of CT scans, or a longer time period.

In total, Hubei added 14,840 new cases on Thursday, of which 13,332 are from the new category of clinical diagnosis using CT scans. The death toll in the province rose by 242, of which 135 cases are from the new method of diagnosis, it said.

Both local and central government officials have been accused of delaying news of the new virus in the early days of the epidemic and eight local doctors who tried to ring the alarm were reprimanded by local authorities, only to be later vindicated by the country’s Supreme Court.

Earlier this week, Hubei province removed two top provincial health commission officials, Liu Yingzi and Zhang Jin, from their posts.

More must-read stories from Fortune:

Why China is still so susceptible to disease outbreaks
—Coronavirus risks universities’ reliance on Chinese students
—Stock scammers are using coronavirus to dupe investors, SEC warns
A new coronavirus red flag on the horizon—a stronger dollar
—WATCH: Coronavirus outbreak has disrupted global economy

Subscribe to Fortune’s Brainstorm Health for daily updates on biopharma and health care.



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People Are Rushing to Buy 100-Ounce Bars of Gold

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People Are Rushing to Buy 100-Ounce Bars of Gold(Bloomberg) — There are few corners of the global financial market that have been upended as spectacularly, or as oddly, by the coronavirus pandemic as gold trading.Not only are prices swinging in an erratic fashion — surging one moment and crashing the next — that is undermining the metal’s vaunted status as a haven in times of crisis, but unprecedented logistical disruptions have also kicked off a frantic hunt for actual bars of gold.At the center of it all are a small band of traders who for years had cashed in on what had always been a sure-fire bet: shorting gold in the futures market. Usually, they’d ride the trade out till the end of the contract when they’d have a couple of options to get out without marking much, if any, loss.But the virus, and the global economic collapse that it’s sparking, have created such extreme price distortions that those easy-exit options disappeared on them. Which means that they suddenly faced the threat of having to deliver actual gold bars to the buyers of the contract upon maturity.It’s at this point that things get really bad for the short-sellers.To make good on maturing contracts, they’d have to move actual gold from various locations. But with the virus shutting down air travel across the globe, procuring a flight to transport the metal became nearly impossible.If they somehow managed to get a flight, there was another major problem. Futures contracts in New York are based on 100-ounce bullion bars. The gold that’s rushed in from abroad is almost always a different size.The short-seller needs to pay a refiner to re-melt the gold and re-pour it into the required bar shape in order for it to be delivered to the contract buyer. But once again, the virus intervenes: Several refiners, including three of the world’s biggest in Switzerland, have shut down operations.Signs of distress picked up on Friday, March 20, when the cost to swap New York futures and spot physical gold in London — the world’s biggest market — rose to about $2. Typically, this trade cost almost nothing. After the close of the next session on Monday, that premium had jumped further to $6.75.When traders in Asia entered Tuesday morning, there weren’t many sellers or offers, and suddenly they were scrambling to buy whatever gold they could get their hands on. By the time London came in, most of the market was squeezed and nobody wanted to sell.“I realized it was going to be an extremely volatile day,” Tai Wong, the head of metals derivatives trading at BMO Capital Markets in New York, said of Tuesday. “We watched this panic develop literally over the course of 12 hours. Having seen enough market dislocations, you recognize that the frenzy wasn’t likely to last, but at the same time you also don’t know how long it would extend.”By the time the panic finally subsided Tuesday night, major investors and decades-old veterans were reeling. At the peak of the carnage, potential total losses were estimated at as much as $1 billion, according to market participants. That’s even though the people involved in the trade represented less than 4% of total open interest — or the amount of outstanding contracts.Traders in need of physical metal went as far as to cold-call holders of gold bars in hopes that they’re in possession of exchange-approved metal. Some investors paid massive fees to have the remaining operating refineries to mint new gold bars, according to people with knowledge of the matter.The spread between April and June futures contracts on Tuesday jumped to $20 an ounce, meaning it cost that much more to buy metal for April than it did for two months later. That signaled more near-term demand for bullion and the need to soon have physical supply in hand.By the end of the week, though, the situation had flipped. The June contract cost almost $30 more than the April contract, suggesting that traders appetite for physical gold has subsided for now.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.



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What to watch on Disney+ while social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic

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Subscribe to Fortune’Outbreak newsletter for a daily roundup of stories on the coronavirus and its impact on global business.

Disney+ is rolling out in Europe just as the coronavirus has caused nations to urge citizens to stay indoors. But it has already spent months racking up subscribers in the United States, thanks to a jam-packed catalog spanning Pixar classics, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, National Geographic documentaries, ’90s animated cartoons, and much more.

With so many options to stream, families surfing Disney+ might find themselves understandably overwhelmed. Fortune’s here to help, breaking down the major services’ offerings into a few distinct recommendations based on whatever mood our current global crisis might have you in (all of which are completely valid). And if nothing in the Mouse’s new House strikes your fancy, here are our Netflix and Amazon Prime guides, for your continued perusing pleasure.

For a badly needed laugh:

Heath Ledger in the 1999 teen movie “10 Things I Hate About You.”
Buena Vista Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

10 Things I Hate About You A romantic-comedy classic you might be surprised to discover on Disney+, this ’90s touchstone featured one of the best non-clown-related performances by the late, great Heath Ledger, as the bad boy tricked into dating a smart-mouthed classmate (Julia Stiles), so that her sister (Larisa Oleynik) can get around their father’s strict dating rules and make out with the new kid (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Twenty years later, it’s remarkable how smart and fresh its script still feels, piled high as it is with quotable one-liners and endlessly clever turns of phrase.

Meet the Robinsons A whiz-bang animated outing that heads to some surprisingly dark places—as well as a wondrously bright future of flying cars, cookie-baking grandmas, and musical gangster frogs—this 2007 effort came at a time when Disney’s animated output was seen to be running low on imagination, after a few high-profile misses. But even if that hadn’t been the case, this thoroughly hilarious and heartwarming story, not to mention its bedeviled bowler hats, would have been met with open arms.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit Pioneering and peculiar, this Robert Zemeckis–directed classic from 1988 renewed public interest in animation technology while crafting a delightfully skewed noir playground in which its mixture of animated cartoon characters and real actors could trade barbs and blows. Surprisingly, its off-kilter look holds up today; there’s something sneakily surreal yet effortless about its balancing of cartoon antics and the 1940s Hollywood sleuthing that brings private eye Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) into Toontown’s heart of unlikely darkness.

Additional picks

The Emperor’s New Groove
Newsies
Home Alone
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Holes

For the whole family:

Nala and Simba in the original animated “The Lion King.”

Inside Out Pixar’s most towering achievement, this 2015 animated insta-classic takes audiences inside the mind of an 11-year-old girl named Riley, introducing us to the five basic emotions responsible for informing and influencing behaviors in her everyday life. Those would be Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). Cubicle colleagues in the office of Riley’s brain, all five hover around a control console, eager to help their little human navigate the turbulence of a destabilizing move. More than just a brilliantly imagined tale and a beautifully animated family adventure, Inside Out invents a radically visual language for emotions, gently teaching it in terms children grappling with their many feelings will understand. The doors that open to deeper dialogue between children and the adults around them cannot be undervalued. Inside Out is at once an important public service and a work of true filmmaking wizardry all at once.

Sky High Too many missed this 2005 superhero comedy, but it demands revisiting in the age of the Marvel industrial complex. Refreshingly light on its feet and unironically enamored of comic-book sagas, the Mike Mitchell–directed movie split the difference between high-school comedies (especially Mean Girls and The Breakfast Club) and the save-the-world stakes found in most caped-crusader concoctions. As a result, its breezy, in-on-the-joke tone feels like more of a revelation now than it did then, amid the ongoing glut of too-big-to-fail blockbusters. And its characters—from Steven Strait’s adorably broody Warren Peace to Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s shifty upperclassman Gwen Grayson—are as memorably sub-Hughesian as ever.

The Lion King (1994) Sure, I’m highlighting this one in part as an opportunity to sucker-punch last year’s abysmal live-action remake. Is that petty? Absolutely. But there’s nothing like a soulless cash-grab from the more modern, mega-corporate Disney to remind everyone what a dream factory its animation studio once was. This emotionally potent, exquisitely drawn masterpiece still plays like Shakespeare in the Serengeti. Its songs remain the classics they always were, heartwarming and soul-stirring. And through its traditionally hand-drawn approach to realizing its world, The Lion King brings a measure of expressive, ecstatic humanity to its animal kingdom.

Additional picks

Black Panther
Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Flight of the Navigator
Togo
Frozen II
A Wrinkle in Time

To find your next binge-watch:

“The Child” and Pedro Pascal as the title character in “The Mandalorian,” which follows the travails of a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy, far from the authority of the New Republic.
Courtesy of Disney+

The Mandalorian The flagship series for Disney+, this surprisingly rich, impressively mounted Star Wars spinoff is a space western on the level that television hasn’t seen since Firefly went off the air. Its masked protagonist offers that perfect shade of Clint Eastwood cool, and its outer-reaches setting grants him an appropriately lawless sandbox to play in, complete with sea slugs and saloon shootouts. But let’s be real: The biggest draw of The Mandalorian (at least out of the gate, in the eight episodes currently available) is the presence of The Child, more commonly known as pop-cultural sensation “Baby Yoda,” particularly precious cargo the titular bounty hunter is tasked with protecting against a legion of former comrades in arms.

Gravity Falls A true mystery box of a kids’ series, Gravity Falls arrived now eight years ago on Disney Channel with little introduction. And across its 40 episodes—initially about the misadventures of 12-year-old twins shipped off to live with their eccentric great-uncle in a haunted Oregon outpost—it gradually revealed itself to be a much richer, smarter, more narratively purposeful tale of hidden worlds and fractured families than anyone could have guessed.

X-Men: The Animated Series Yes, the animation’s somewhat dated, but this ’90s cartoon laid the groundwork for many a serialized small-screen series to come with its uncommonly ambitious storytelling and nuanced treatment of the titular super-team. From season one’s epic saga surrounding the deadly Sentinels program to season two’s deepening of the dynamic between Wolverine and Rogue, X-Men: The Animated Series was one of the first comic-book shows to balance complex story lines with a fully fleshed-out, emotional approach to its characters. And its later-season staging of the Dark Phoenix saga, through which Jean Grey’s cosmic powers began to consume her, stands as the best telling of that arc to date, despite two separate efforts to dramatize it on the big screen.

Additional picks

The Simpsons
DuckTales
Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Ultimate Spider-Man
The Imagineering Story

Coming attractions:

Narrated by Natalie Portman, Disneynature’s “Dolphin Reef” tells the story of Echo, a young Pacific bottlenose dolphin who seems far more interested in exploring the coral reef and its intriguing inhabitants than learning to survive in it.
Courtesy of Disney+

Onward (April 3) Pixar’s latest opened mere weeks before the spread of the coronavirus led major theater chains across the country to close their doors. Set in a suburban fantasy world where elves and centaurs drive decal-decked vans and slack their way through high school, it may be a slighter entry from the studio that brought you Up and The Incredibles. But even middle-shelf Pixar still has magic to spare.

Dolphin Reef (April 3) Natalie Portman narrates this stunning Disneynature documentary about Echo, a young Pacific bottlenose dolphin filled with curiosity about the coral reef his pod calls home. Exploring his surroundings and bumping up against all manner of sea critters, Echo gradually learns his place in the delicately balanced ecosystem of the reef.

National Treasure (April 30) Nicolas Cage heads up a ragtag team of self-described “treasure protectors” in this 2004 adventure gem, in which the epically named Benjamin Gates (Cage) leads the FBI on a merry chase through American history after, yes, stealing the Declaration of Independence (but only because the bad guys were already going to, see!). One of the more endearingly odd highlights of Cage’s filmography, made at the unlikely peak of his time as a Hollywood leading man, it has aged like fine wine and buried riches. (And if you can’t wait till the end of April, it’s on Netflix until it shifts to Disney+).

Additional picks:

David Lynch’s The Straight Story (April 3)
Running Wild With Bear Grylls, Season Five (April 10)
America’s Funniest Home Videos, Seasons 12–19, 23 (April 24)
John Carter (May 2)

More must-read stories from Fortune:

What to watch on Amazon Prime while social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic
What to watch on Netflix while social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic
—For Jesse Eisenberg, WWII biopic Resistance and sci-fi nightmare Vivarium both hit close to home
—Sobriety is the new black: How musicians are upending the usual narrative surrounding addiction
MusiCares’s COVID-19 Relief Fund gets all-star help for donations, concerts
Follow Fortune on Flipboard to stay up-to-date on the latest news and analysis.



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BSP may pump more money into system amid outbreak

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THE Philippine central bank is expected to pump more money into the financial system as low lending rates fail to stimulate an economy that has been put into a standstill by a novel coronavirus pandemic.

“Quantitative easing measures, through bond purchases and other tools by central banks are faster to implement and have immediate positive effects on the economy and financial markets,” said Michael L. Ricafort, chief economist at Rizal Commercial Banking Corp.

They are unlike stimulus measures that may require more time through legislation, he said in an e-mailed reply to questions.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) earlier went on a buying spree of three-month government securities worth $300-billion from the Bureau of the Treasury under a repurchase agreement payable in six months.

Both quantitative easing measures and policies are needed at a time of a pandemic, according to Ruben Carlo O. Asuncion, chief economist at UnionBank of the Philippines, Inc.

“With the magnitude of an impact such as a pandemic, all monetary and fiscal means should be on deck, and nothing should be left unused,” he said.

Quantitative easing would also help boost lending, apart from the liquidity boost and rate cuts enforced by the central bank, said Robert Dan J. Roces, chief economist at Security Bank Corp.

“The additional reserves would kick-start lending, causing broad money growth to expand, and eventually lead to an increase in real economic activity,” he said in an e-mail.

STRONGER MEASURES
Meanwhile, BSP needs to come up with a bigger and stronger scope of response to ensure the economy is better cushioned from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, analysts said.

The economic effects of the pandemic could be worse than the 2008 global financial crisis, UnionBank’s Economic Research Unit said in a report, adding that the government needs to boost its response.

“By mere optics, the current crop of policies may have to be augmented further and a more targeted policy support is very much needed,” it said in an e-mailed note.

The share of exports, imports and tourist arrivals in the gross domestic product (GDP) last year rose to 59.3% (from 52.9%), 68.7% (from 50.1%), and 12.7% (from 5.9%), respectively from 2007, the bank said, citing government data.

On the other hand, the share of consumption and remittances in the economy fell to 68.4% (from 71.6%) and 8.5% (from 9.7%), respectively. In absolute amount, consumption almost doubled to P6.7 trillion last year from 2007, while remittances more than doubled to P30.1 billion

“Apart from the trade’s bigger part of the economy, tourism has more than doubled in terms of GDP contribution,” according to the report.

“Aggregate consumption, the biggest contributor to GDP, and remittance inflows have continuously supported economic growth for more than a decade,” it added.

“An estimated deeper impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the bigger real macroeconomy, compared with the economic losses caused by the global financial crisis warrants wider and more encompassing policies,” it added.

The month-long lockdown in Luzon, which contributes 70% to GDP, is expected to slow the economy. Tourism, trade and remittances are also expected to suffer because of the outbreak.

Economic managers have estimated losses of P428.7 billion to P1.355 trillion in gross value added or about 2.1% to 6.6% of GDP. The government had targeted growth of 6.5-7.5% this year.

“If we are going to take their initial assessments seriously, then the response to this pandemic should be stronger and the scope bigger,” according to the report.

The central bank cut policy rates by 50 basis points this month and will buy P300 billion worth of securities from the Treasury bureau to help fund government initiatives related to the outbreak.

On Thursday, it remitted in advance P20 billion in dividends to the National Government to help it deal with the health crisis. — Luz Wendy T. Noble



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